A day after a state senator said welfare recipients “sit around and go fishing,” the Senate gave final approval to a bill that will force some on welfare to undergo drug testing.
Senators voted 23-4 on Thursday to approve HB155 and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.
The bill would require those who receive cash assistance and participate in Utah’s Family Employment Program to fill out a questionnaire and, if answers create suspicions that applicants are using drugs, it would require them to take a drug test. If they test positive for drugs, they are then required to undergo treatment.
In debate Wednesday, Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, created some controversy by saying, “It don’t go far enough.”
He added, “It’s a shame that people that want to work for a living has to be … [subjected] to drug tests, but people who want to sit around and go fishing in the afternoons don’t.”
Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-West Jordan, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said people would not lose benefits unless they refuse to answer the questionnaire, refuse to take drug tests or do not keep up with treatment — as shown by failing drug tests.
Osmond said the change is designed to help, not put down, people in the program by identifying early on those who may have substance abuse problems so they can get help. “This bill is both compassionate and addresses the fact that if they have a drug problem, it’s going to be very hard for them to keep a job,” Osmond said.